In 2008, The Bridge PAI hosted a month of sound-related programming entitled Audio January. The next year, January seemed unfeasible, so the Belmont-based arts organization followed up with Audio February. The joke amongst Bridge staff was that the annual event would cycle through the months of the year, and for three successive years (including Audio March 2010 and Audio April 2011) that actually happened.
When Kevin Davis and Chris Peck, both graduate composers in UVA’s music department, took over the reins of the Bridge’s “noise committee” from departing Ph.D. student Jonathan Zorn, The Bridge proposed following up with Audio May. “We said, ‘May’s too busy, and the summer’s dead, so why don’t we just do Audio September?’” said Davis. With help from other UVA music students and Bridge volunteers they spent months assembling a calendar of events devoted to sound, including performances of jazz, rock, hip-hop, and experimental music, live readings of fiction and poetry, and radio broadcasts from the gallery.
Audio September also coincides with the centennial of John Cage, the 100th birthday of the influential thinker, composer, speaker, writer, performer, and mycologist whose avant-garde theories changed 20th century music—and fittingly, The Bridge chose Cage as the unofficial patron saint of the series. “Actually, there’s plenty of events that aren’t Cage-themed” said Peck. “When a lot of people celebrate Cage, it’s just chamber music. But we were really influenced by his philosophy, which had to do with things happening not just at a concert hall, but with sound everywhere.”
Discussing the guiding principles behind organizing the Audio September calendar, Davis said “The Bridge is a non-profit organization, and we wanted to bring things to town that wouldn’t necessarily work at a for-profit event, things that couldn’t happen anywhere else in town. We were focusing on things you wouldn’t necessarily hear at a rock concert, or at UVA. We’re excited by really good multimedia or sound installation art, something that happens in the space between an installation and a performance. The Bridge PAI is the perfect location for that.”
The two organizers are particularly excited about Chris Heenan, a contrabass clarinetist who performs with accordionist Jonas Kocher on Thursday, September 27, as well as Fred Moten, the theorist and poet whose September 22 appearance is being sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American Studies and the UVA English Department. Another highlight is the work of Jason Ajemian, a double-bassist, composer, and former Waynesboro resident who has gone on to acclaim in the Chicago jazz scene, although these days he mostly lives on tour, performing solo, in duets and trios, and a variety of bands including Hush Arbors and Born Heller.
Ajemian’s music is wildly entertaining, but difficult to categorize, mixing elements of jazz, folk, pop, rock and experimental music. The parts are easily identifiable, but they add up to a whole that sounds totally unique. “We were excited to have Jason because he’s originally from around here,” said Davis, “and he has a really novel combination of Appalachian music and improvised music that you don’t really hear anywhere else.”
Last Friday, the Bridge hosted an art opening of Ajemian’s “graphical scores,” which he calls Teleport Tone Poems—a combination of traditional music scores and abstract visual illustrations, meant to be creatively interpreted by performers. Ajemian performed at the opening, and will appear again on Wednesday, September 12 with a large ensemble called the Breath Orchestra. A group of 15 musicians that play a wide variety of instruments, as Davis explained, performing “patterns of music based on the length of a human breath,” rather than a fixed time signature.
“A big question facing music today is how to deal with chaos of individuals,” wrote Ajemian. “First thing to do is to embrace that chaos within yourself. Musically, this is the style of each musician. What I’m trying to do is let that style express itself. In other words, letting people be themselves in chaos. It’s not music, it’s a moment of shared chaos.”
The Audio September calendar is also impressive for its wide range of performers and styles, including last Sunday’s prose and poetry reading, part of an ongoing monthly series entitled Scheherazade, and the upcoming Hip Hop Showcase on September 15, featuring students and alumni from the Music Resource Center, the after-school program that has mentored generations of young Charlottesville musical talent.
Audio September continues through the month with a closing party on Saturday, September 29. Most events are either $5 or free, and a full schedule is available online at www.thebridgepai.com.
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